Garrett’s Debut of the Month, Alber, Bowen, Mrazek, Steiner, Penny, plus Newcomers Backlund and Johns | Mystery Reviews

Summer reading season is well underway, and this month’s titles offer opportunities to visit Hollywood (Kellye ­Garrett’s lively Hollywood Homicide), tour our nation’s capital (Colleen J. Shogan’s Calamity at the Continental Club), book some murderous European travel (Continental Crimes), and literally go to the dogs with a pack of ­canine-themed detective novels (David ­Handler’s The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes and E.J. Copperman’s The Dog Dish of Doom) that are sure to have fans sitting up and begging for more.—ACT

Debut of the month

redstarGarrett, Kellye. Hollywood Homicide: A Detective by Day Mystery. Midnight Ink. Aug. 2017. 312p. ISBN 9780738752617. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738753003. M

Actress Dayna Anderson’s 15 minutes of fame as the spokesperson for Chubby’s Chicken, and her notable catchphrase “Don’t think so, boo” are gone—as is her money. Job hunting is painfully unsuccessful and frequently compounded by her inability to cash in on her almost recognition factor. In dire need, Dayna latches onto the idea that she can claim the $15,000 reward for helping to solve a deadly hit-and-run accident that she witnessed. She starts digging around with the help of her friend (self-proclaimed future reality star) Sienna. Dayna is quickly hooked on the investigation, which seems to be connected to an infamous Hollywood crime spree, taking her from Hollywood hot spots to movie premieres. Then someone tries to kill her. TV writer Garrett (Cold Case) makes a smart, sassy debut, introducing an appealing protagonist with amusing friends who deliver one-liners and toss back drinks while solving the case. VERDICT Sure to be a hit with readers looking for a fresh new sleuth who isn’t afraid to go to Tinsel Town. [See Jessica Moyer’s Mystery Spotlight “Novel Crime Scenes,” LJ 4/15/17.]—ACT

Check These Out

redstarAlber, Lisa. Path into Darkness: A County Clare Mystery. Midnight Ink. Aug. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780738750576. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738751801. M

In Lisfenora, Ireland, DS Danny Ahern is struggling. His wife is on life support, and his weekly trips to the hospital are difficult. Then an old pub mate is murdered, and Danny discovers the man was running a scheme to take in older lodgers with no nearby relatives. One of the last people to see Elder Joe alive is an artist who suffers from PTSD. Danny tries to get answers from a troubled man who doesn’t always know the day or time. As he investigates, two other characters view the case from their own perspectives. One is a woman whose father has proclaimed her the next matchmaker in the village. A third narrator remains anonymous while writing in a journal. VERDICT Alber’s third series outing (following Whispers in the Mist) is an atmospheric story of Ireland, filled with myth and darkness. The characters are as hard and mysterious as the land itself. Fans of Erin Hart’s dark Irish crime novels should welcome this series.—LH

redstarBacklund, J.R. Among the Dead: A Rachel Carver Mystery. Crooked Lane. Aug. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781683312734. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683312741. M

DEBUT Rachel Carver resigned from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation after an innocent woman was killed on her last case. When an old partner calls and asks her to help with a murder investigation in the western part of the state, she reluctantly agrees. A man was murdered inside his home, with no signs of forced entry and no suspects. When a second person is killed, investigators suspect the same culprit is responsible because of the precise timing of the crime. As the violence escalates, Rachel studies the victims, finding a link to their high school years and a recent suicide. It’s one more case that could blow up in Rachel’s face. VERDICT With a complex investigation building to a surprising twist, this riveting debut introduces a strong female lead in a violent, character-driven story. Fans of Linda Castillo’s “Kate Burkholder” mysteries will welcome Rachel Carver’s arrival.—LH

Handler, David. The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes: A Stewart Hoag Mystery. Morrow. Aug. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780062412843. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062412867. M

It’s been 20 years since Handler’s last book featuring Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag and his basset hound Lulu (The Man Who Loved Women to Death). It’s 1992. Hoagy is still ghostwriting celebrity memoirs. Twenty years ago, Richard Aintree, who had written one classic coming-of-age novel, disappeared, abandoning two teenage daughters. Now, Richard, or someone pretending to be him, has written to them both. Monette, who became a Hollywood celebrity, taps Hoagy to write the tell-all memoir. Because Hoagy was once in love with her sister Reggie, he knows the women are trouble. Hoagy heads to Hollywood, but, from beginning to end, this job is a mess. He has to contend with paparazzi, a drug-addicted husband, and someone who wants him dead. When there is a murder at a birthday party, neither Hoagy nor his police lieutenant friend believe the confession of the supposed killer. Hoagy is as cynical as ever with a dry humor that will find wide appeal. Lulu is a treat for mystery readers who love dogs. VERDICT Fans who have been missing Handler’s series will be eager to pick up this new installment, which, like Sue Grafton’s mysteries, represents a past ­without social media and cell phones.—LH

Johns, Roger. Dark River Rising. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781250110091. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250110114. M

DEBUT Veteran Baton Rouge, LA, homicide detective Wallace Hartman is not enthralled with her professional life. Her partner and mentor is on long-term medical leave and her new case involves a gruesome torture-murder. The criminal-victim was discovered with a live snake sewn into his stomach and a large amount of cocaine present at the scene. Concern about a drug war and familiarity with the style of killing involved brings DEA agent Mason Cunningham into the investigation. Wallace and Mason join forces to make the best use of their federal and local connections. The case becomes more complicated as a killer with a mysterious agenda threatens even greater violence, which may engulf them both. Featuring a fine ensemble cast, this solid debut is strong on atmosphere and tension. Verdict Readers who enjoy Louisiana settings, tough but sensitive female detectives, and who can handle graphic violence will want more from this author.—ACT

redstarMrazek, Robert J. Dead Man’s Bridge. Crooked Lane. Aug. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781683312697. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683312703. M

After his court-martial for actions in Afghanistan, former army officer Jake Cantrell returns to upstate New York to lick his wounds, bringing along his wolf-dog, Bug. He can only get a job as campus security at St. Andrews College, but, even after drinking too much, he is sure that the man hanging from a footbridge didn’t commit suicide. Unfortunately, no one else wants to call it murder on alumni weekend. The head of campus security suspends Jake for insubordination, which gives him time to investigate a case of blackmail. When another influential donor is found dangling from the same bridge as a hurricane bears down on the town, Jake will need to draw on all his skills to find the killer. Verdict Mrazek (The Bone Hunters) kicks off a new series introducing a sleuth determined to find the truth in an action-packed tale that grows in intensity and complexity. A solid choice for fans of Glen Erik Hamilton’s Van Shaw thrillers featuring an ex-army ranger.—LH

Stein, Triss. Brooklyn Wars: An Erica Donato Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Aug. 2017. 236p. ISBN 9781464207198. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464207204. M

The Brooklyn Navy Yard provides PhD candidate Erica Donato one more chapter for her thesis about changing city neighborhoods. It also provides her with the scene of a crime when she witnesses the shooting death of Michael Conti, a consultant and wheeler-dealer who wasn’t always popular with the workers in the area. Nor was he well loved by his wives or his daughter. Everyone is a suspect. As Erica digs into Michael’s story, she discovers even her late husband’s family had historic links to the Navy Yard. Stein’s fourth book in the series (following Brooklyn Secrets) wraps up Erica’s career as a student. ­VERDICT Readers who enjoyed Clea Simon’s “Dulcie Schwartz” mysteries for the doctoral student aspects, or Mary Anna Evans’s books involving history might ­enjoy this series.—LH

redstarSteiner, Susie. Persons Unknown. Random. Jul. 2017. 32p. ISBN . $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812998351. M

Det. Manon Bradshaw, single and five months pregnant, has transferred back to Cambridgeshire to work cold cases. She sets up house with her 12-year-old adopted son, Fly; her sister, Ellie; and Ellie’s toddler, Solly. The move from London, and Manon’s attempt to balance work and life hasn’t been successful and the combined household is stressed and unhappy. The murder of a wealthy businessman turns out to be connected to Manon’s family; when Fly becomes the main suspect, Manon is pitted against her colleagues. It’s quite a full plate she has to balance: the unexpected possibility of a new love, the effects of family secrets and ineffective communication, as well as her visceral anger and fear about Fly’s arrest. With its multiple viewpoints, this follow-up to the acclaimed Missing Presumed is another engrossing stunner, incorporating social justice issues into the narrative along with superb plotting, dark humor, and excellent characterizations. Verdict Perfect for admirers of Kate Atkinson’s books. [See Prepub Alert, 1/4/17.]—ACT

Collections & Anthologies

Continental Crimes. Poisoned Pen (British Library Crime Classics). Aug. 2017. 278p. ed. by Martin Edwards. ISBN 9781464207488. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464207495. M

Once again, Edwards (Miraculous Mysteries; The Golden Age of Murder) has compiled a collection of little-known mysteries from Golden Age–British authors. This time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and G.K. Chesterton, among others, send their sleuths to the European continent. There are also intriguing stories by lesser-known authors in the genre. “Popeau Intervenes” by Marie Belloc Lowndes, daughter of a French barrister and an English feminist, introduces Hercules Popeau, a forerunner perhaps of Christie’s own ­Hercule Poirot. There is a strong resemblance, and the tale itself reflects some of the moral tones of Christie’s stories. ­Arnold Bennett’s “A Bracelet at Bruges” is a clever depiction of deception and theft. Along with the story introductions and biographical sketches of the authors, Edwards includes the publication history of several of the stories. VERDICT Fans of classic British crime fiction will appreciate this anthology, and the vivid locations should lure readers who enjoy atmospheric reads.—LH

Cozy corner

redstarCopperman. E.J. Dog Dish of Doom. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Agent to the Paws, Bk. 1). Aug. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781250084279. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250084286. M

If Kay Powell could only work with her clients, she’d be happy—but their owners tend to get in the way. As an agent for animal performers, she’s found the perfect dog to take over the role of Sandy in the musical Annie. During the tryout, Bruno’s owner Trent Barclay argues with the show’s director, who hires Bruno with the stipulation that Trent isn’t allowed in the theater. But then Trent’s wife finds him face down in Bruno’s dog dish with a knife in his back. Now that Bruno has the job, though, there are multiple attempts to abduct him. While a brusque homicide detective investigates Trent’s murder, Kay and her showbiz parents focus on the important issue: How can the show go on when Kay has to hide Bruno to keep him safe? This hilarious romp through the world of show business is cast with outrageously funny characters, including Kay’s father, an aging actor determined to play detective. Verdict Admirers of old comedy sketches and anyone looking for a laugh-out-loud mystery should pick up this series launch by Copperman (Edited Out).—LH

Perona, Elizabeth. Murder at the Male Revue. Midnight Ink. (Bucket List, Bk. 3). Jul. 2017. 312p. ISBN 9780738750644. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738751849. M

The septuagenarians of the Summer Ridge Bridge Club in Brownsburg, IN, prove there’s plenty of time for fun and murder investigations in their third adventure, following Murder Under the Covered Bridge. The women all have bucket lists; Joy McQueen hopes to cross off attending a male strip club from hers, but she didn’t plan to have the charity revue turn into a food disaster and then a murder scene. When the town council president is stabbed, Francine McNamara and her friend Charlotte team up to find the killer in a fun mystery with multiple strip scenes and food accidents. VERDICT These lively senior amateur sleuths will appeal to fans of Rita Lakin’s “Gladdy Gold” mysteries.—LH

Shogan, Colleen J. Calamity at the Continental Club. Camel. (Washington Whodunit, Bk. 3). Jul. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781603813358. pap. $15.95. M

Kit Marshall and her fiancé, history professor Doug Hollingsworth, are spending several days with her upper-crust future in-laws at the Continental Club in Washington, DC. The Mayflower Society is holding their annual meeting there. Doug’s father loves history, while his mother, Buffy, hopes to entice Kit to hold her wedding there. But their plans come to an abrupt end when a conservative multimedia tycoon is killed, and Doug’s father appears to be the suspect. Kit and her fellow congressional staffers relish the opportunity to investigate another murder in Shogan’s third DC-set series, following Homicide in the House. ­VERDICT Readers who enjoy American history will appreciate this light mystery, including tours of Mount Vernon, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian.—LH

Series lineup

redstarBowen, Rhys. On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service: A Royal Spyness Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Aug. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780425283509. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780698410251. M
Bowen’s 11th series historical mystery (following Crowned and Dangerous) takes a serious turn on the eve of World War II as Lady Georgiana heads to Italy to spy on her cousin the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson at a house party also attended by Mussolini’s top adviser and high-ranking German military officers. Festivities turn dark when a blackmailer is murdered, yet the courageous Georgie is as candid and refreshing as always.—LH

Brown, Eric. Murder Take Three: A Langham & Dupre Mystery. Severn House. Aug. 2017. 208p. ISBN 9780727887092. $28.99. M
When a film actress asks private detective Donald Langham to come to her Norfolk film set to investigate threats against her director—and lover—he sees it as a chance to spend time with his fiancée Maria Dupre. But the toxic atmosphere on the set leads to off-screen murder. Brown’s fourth ­“Langham and Dupre” title, following Murder at the Loch, is a British country house mystery with a surprise ending. Suggest for Agatha Christie fans.—LH

Cotterill, Colin. The Rat Catchers’ Olympics: A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery. Soho Crime. Aug. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781616958251. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616958268. M

In his 12th adventure (after I Shot the Buddha), retired coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun and his wife score a trip to the 1980 Moscow Olympics as medical advisers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos team. When a team member is accused of murder, Siri must solve the crime under the eye of two mistrustful governments. All the hallmarks of the series are present, including humor, magic realism, and the usual eccentric characters.—ACT

Doiron, Paul. Knife Creek. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781250102355. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250102379. M

Tasked with killing invasive feral hogs, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch and his girlfriend Stacy Stevens discover a baby’s corpse in a shallow grave. When evidence connects the infant with a girl thought to have disappeared years earlier during a rafting trip, Bowditch suspects that nearby residents may have deadly secrets. This eighth series outing (after Widowmaker) is another winner from Edgar Award–nominated Doiron, with the author’s signature trademarks—strong characters and fast-paced action set in Maine’s natural world present.—ACT

McCafferty, Keith. Cold Hearted River: A Sean Stranahan Mystery. Viking. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780525429609. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780698406360. M

The brutally tragic deaths of a couple stranded in a spring snowstorm bring to light a fly wallet that may be tied to Ernest Hemingway’s treasured fishing gear and his long-lost trunk containing unpublished work. Inspired by a true story, McCafferty’s exciting sixth investigation (after Buffalo Jump Blues) featuring Montana fly fisherman Sean Stranahan tracks the chapters of Hemingway’s life from Montana to Cuba and Wyoming.—ACT

Miley, Mary. Murder in Disguise: A Roaring Twenties Mystery. Severn House. Aug. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780727887146. $28.99. M

In this fourth “Roaring Twenties” mystery, former vaudevillian and occasional sleuth Jessie Beckett is working as a script girl for the Fairbanks-Pickford studio when Mary Pickford asks her to investigate the murder of a projectionist.—ACT

QUOTABLE “You don’t want to do cold cases,” Harriet said. “There is no greater career cul-de-sac than cold cases.” “I do, seriously. Boring dead-end redundancy’s where I’m at.” And cold cases is where she’s ended up, while her belly enlarges (now at the five month mark), spending her days following her Sat Nav inexpertly around the Fens—“turn around where possible”— to interview people who couldn’t remember much about last week, never mind a decade ago. Telling herself this is fine. This is what’s called Having It All (though most of the time, it feels like having small slivers of the duller bits), home by five, picking up some washing powder. “You have reached your destination on your right.” Christ, really?—Susie Steiner, Persons Unknown

Additional Mystery

Davis, Lindsey. The Third Nero: A Flavia Albia Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781250078919. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466891456. M

In her fifth outing (after The Graveyard of the Hespirides), PI Flavia Albia, the adopted daughter of Marcus Falco, is hired by henchmen of paranoid Emperor Domitian to root out those looking to overthrow him. She’d rather not get involved with court intrigue, but her fiancé is unable to work after being struck by lightning. Complicating her investigation is another pretender to the throne claiming to be Nero. In a Rome that is full of suspicion, conspiracy, and treachery, Flavia struggles to keep her home life together while navigating a perilous world of political machinations. VERDICT As in her other mysteries, Davis has created a fascinating world, populated it with original characters, and laid out a captivating plot. Appropriate for teen readers and up, with only a few modest moments of a violent or sexual nature. [See Prepub Alert, 1/30/17.]— Matt Schirano, Univ. of Bridgeport Lib., CT

redstarHall, Rachel Howzell. City of Saviors: A Detective Elouise Norton Novel Forge. Aug. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780765381194. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466878044. F

LAPD homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton, back on the job after the traumatic events recounted in Trail of Echoes, is called to investigate the death of an elderly man. At first glance, his demise appears to be from natural causes, but almost immediately it becomes obvious that there is much more beneath the surface. The vultures begin circling even before the coroner can remove the body. The victim was a hoarder, and as his friend begins clearing his house, a gruesome discovery is made. The investigation leads to an unusual cast of suspects, from a gold-digging girlfriend to the pastor of a local megachurch. As Lou and her partner Colin Taggert dig deeper into the mystery, the plot makes many turns and the reader is kept guessing to the very end. VERDICT In her fourth gritty series police procedural, Hall once again captivates readers with her intricately woven plot and well-drawn characters. Her protagonist easily holds her own against her male colleagues in this genre. [See Jessica Moyer’s Mystery Spotlight “Novel Crime Scenes,” LJ 4/15/17.]— Sandra Knowles, South Carolina State Lib., Columbia

redstarPenny, Louise. Glass Houses. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781250066190. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466873681. M

In the 13th book in Penny’s popular “Chief Inspector Gamache” series (after A Great Reckoning), Armand Gamache is now the head of the Sûreté du Québec, which seems to be a sinking ship heading for an iceberg. Switching back and forth from an October murder scene in the village of Three Pines to a trial in a steamy summer courtroom in Montréal, the tale of a region devastated by drugs unfolds. Gamache and his team have a plan to save their beloved province, which may not succeed and will almost certainly result in the destruction of their careers. In Three Pines, the residents go about their lives, but no one is safe from the threat as both the tension and the action build. Fans of the series will be glad to encounter Ruth and her duck Rosa, Clara the artist, and Gamache’s loved ones, Reine-Marie, Jean-Guy, and Annie. VERDICT The award-winning Penny does not rest on her laurels with this challenging and timely book. Though touched by the evils of the outside world, Three Pines remains a singular place away from time. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/17.]—Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY

Lesa Holstine is Collections and Technical Services Department Manager, Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library System, Evansville, IN. Ann Chambers Theis is Collection Management Librarian, Henrico County Public Library, VA

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